Virginia Woolf :
The feminist harping on gender inequality and oppression
Adeline Virginia Stephen, better known in English literature as
Virginia Woolf, was born in 1882 at Hyde Park Gate, Kensington in
Her father was Sir Leslie Stephen was a historian, author, a literary
critic and mountaineer and her mother was Julia Prinsep Duckworth
Stephen who maintained lingering associations with contemporary artists
and painters who were in the habit of frequenting their residence.
Virginia Woolf was the third child of Leslie Stephen and Julia
Duckworth Stephen and Virginia was provided education by private tutors
according to the order of the Victorian era.
Virginia's father's library, full of classical literature provided
ample opportunities for her to mould a colourful and radiant literary
career par excellence.
According to the tradition of the day, her two brothers, Thoby and
Adian were sent to Cambridge while she was never provided an opportunity
to receive formal education. This degradation of women in a patriarchal
society paved the way for this issue to be used as a major theme in her
In year 1910 Woolf began her literary career by making her
contributions to Times Literary Supplement and the Hogarth Press also
facilitated her in publishing her work.
She had written over 500 essays and 10 novels portraying numerous
themes relevant to humanity.
The Voyage Out was her first novel and later she wrote Night and Day
(1919), Monday or Tuesday (1921), Jacob's Room (1922), Mrs. Dalloway
(1925), A Room of One's Own, To the Lighthouse (1927), Orlando and The
Waves which are considered as her major works of literature.
Woolf, considered one of the most outspoken modernist writers of
England in the 20th century portrayed gender inequality and oppression
as the major themes of her works.
She exploited 'feminism' not only as an analysis of gender inequality
and oppression but also as a political movement relevant to the denial
of suffrage due to gender discrimination prevailed in England in the
A Room of One's Own (1929) could be considered as a thesis
highlighting the theme of gender inequality and oppression .
It was based on a series of lectures Woolf delivered in various
Institutions on education and women' s access to education, history of
female writers and the lack of opportunities available to them during
the era and also on lesbianism.
Once Virginia described herself as 'born into very communicative,
literate, letter writing, and visitors articulate late-nineteenth
Referring to female writers she said, "But what I find deplorable, I
continued, looking about the bookshelves again, is that nothing is known
about women before the 18th century.'
Gender education inequality prevailed in England during the Victorian
age was identified by Woolf as women been treated as outsiders and she
came to the limelight as a writer highlighting the theme of feminism in
her writings. Male writers enjoyed all the privileges which were denied
to female writers and during this period certain female writers were in
the habit of writing under pen names whenever they wanted to get their
Charlotte Bronte, Marian Evans and Aurore Dupin , Couuer Bell, George
Elit, George Sand wrote under pen names.
"Women were shut out of libraries and universities in 1928 denying
them a safe place to educate themselves. 'Virginia Woolf's reacted to
the gender discrimination.
"Lock up your libraries if you like, but there is no gate, no lock,
no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind."
In A Room of One's Own referring to the total dependence of women on
their husbands for money, Woolf said, "A woman must have money and a
room of her own if she is to write fiction."
"In a patriarchal society men are in the control of money and the
social and artistic life of women are controlled financially and
emotionally by their husbands."
According to the underlying theme, A Room of One's Own is not merely
portraying the lack of physical space but it conveys a deeper message
instigating women to fight for their political and cultural rights
denied to them.
Woolf was highly concerned over the fiction written by male writers
expressing 'sexuality of women, female imagination and their talent and
"Indeed if women had no existence save in the fiction written by men,
one would imagine her as a person of the utmost importance , heroic and
splendid and sound infinitely beautiful .... As great as the men."
There are numerous expressions in 'A Room of One's Own' implying the
message Woolf conveying on the theme of feminism.
"Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing
the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice
its natural size."
Referring to writing Woolf said, "Writing is like sex. First you do
it for love, then you do it for your friends and then you do it for
"For most of history, Anonymous was a woman."
Literary critics vary in their analysis of the theme of A Room of
One's Own'. Arnold Benett, an early 20th century British novelist, was
of the opinion that it was simply a study of men and women.
Virginia Woolf had written a little about men and more about women.
But literary critic David Daiches analysed A Room of One's Own was
based on feminism, the belief in securing equal rights and opportunities
for women. Woolf's fiction To the Lighthouse is based on high modernism.
The novel was centred on the characters of Ramsays and their visits to
their summer home in the Hebrides on the Isle of Skye in Scotland in the
years of 1910-1920.
In tune with the modernist tradition, Woolf did not pay much
attention on its plot but made the reader to gather thoughts and
observations of the characters.
In this novel, childhood emotions and adult relationships had been
Parallelism can be observed in the behaviour of the characters in To
the Lighthouse with that of Woolf's parents.
The theme of understanding and dealing with unresolved issues
relevant to both parents and Virginia Woolf could be considered similar
to the plot of this novel.
"Mrs. Dalloway which is one of the most popular novels written by
Woolf deals on a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway belonged to a
fictional aristocratic family.The plot of the novel revolves around the
preparations for a party that she would host in the evening.
During her preparations Clarissa Dalloway went around London and she
reminisced the days of her youth spent in Bourton and wondered about her
choice of her husband.
One of the characters of Mrs. Dalloway Septimus Warren Smith, a war
veteran who was suffering from deferred traumatic stress, committed
One of the themes of this novel is the treatment of mental ailments
and depression caused by the first world war.
Virginia Woolf criticises the class structure that prevailed in the
society as well in Mrs. Dalloway.
'The plot bears some similarity to the life of Woolf as she is also
treated for her continuous mental derangements.
She was known to have suffered from numerous hallucinations and once
she had also tried to commit suicide attempting to throw out of a window
as Septimus Warren Smith in the novel Mrs. Dalloway.
The theme of homosexuality or the sexual orientation of Clarissa
Dalloway was yet another theme of Mrs. Dalloway.